Rear-Entry Ski Boots: The Impossible Dream!

If you look up “love-hate relationship” in a thesaurus, one of the resulting synonyms will be “ski boots!” Ski boots are the most important piece of ski equipment whether you’re a beginner or an expert. But since the beginning of recreational skiing, ski boots have also been the source of the most frustration.

It’s difficult to imagine many skiers who truly love their ski boots. They can be difficult to get on or off. They can be too tight or too loose. They can even hurt. But we accept the struggle to get the performance.

However there are still some remnants of a radical group who thought ski boots should be easy to put on and comfortable. Those are the rear-entry ski boot fanatics.

Alden Hanson was the chief scientist for Dow Chemical in the late 1960s. He and his two sons Chris and Denny were also skiers. The elder Hanson had developed a flow material and eventually interested Lange boots in using it for their boot liners. Chris and Denny went to work for Lange and Lange-Flo was born. That’s a good-news-bad-news story that will have to wait for another column. The two brothers would be fired by Lange in 1969 –  not about Lange-Flo, but because they were working on their own radical new ski boot design.

Hanson Rear-Entry Ski BootsChris and Denny Hanson would start their own company, Hanson Industries, and produce the first rear-entry ski boot in 1971. Their father, Alden, officially holds the patent on the design.

I received several correct answers concerning who invented the rear-entry ski boot. The first was from a non-skiing friend, Anne Nichols Pierce, who is a court reporter. She knew the answer because she had been the recorder for a deposition from Alden Hanson in a skiing accident liability suit years ago! Other correct answers came from former Hanson ski boot owner Rick Scotti and Stowe Host Bill Kornrumpf.

Rear-entry boots were easy to put on, simple to close, and many people found them comfortable to wear. Hanson split the front of the boot and used a sliding clamp to adjust flex. Slide the clamp to the top for the stiffest flex, slide the clamp to the bottom for the softest flex.

The rear-entry design caught on quickly with recreational skiers. By 1975 Hanson was competing with Lange for market share. By 1980 they were producing 120,000 ski boots a year which was approximately 50% of the United States market. You saw a lot of the bright orange or lime green Hansons on the slopes.

But the Hansons made some bad business decisions including buying the Hexcel ski company. Then the 1982-83 ski season was hurt by a lack of snow which translated into poor sales. In 1984 the Hansons ran out of cash and sold the company to Daiwa of Japan. Hanson ski boots disappeared from the United States and European markets.

Salomon SX92 Rear-Entry Ski BootsMany ski boot companies would try to fill the void left by Hanson’s departure by introducing rear-entry models. Even Lange would have some rear-entry boots. However Salomon would have the most success in the rear-entry ski boot market. They actually went after the high performance racing market with their SX-9x series that had a more complicated design to adjust hold-down and flex. Just like the Hanson they caught on quickly and developed a fanatical following, but again only with recreational skiers.

Bob Walker's Salomon SX93's

Bob Walker's boots in 2004

Bob Walker took up skiing “late in life” during the 1980s. He started with Salomon’s first rear-entry boot the SX-90. After ten plus years he upgraded to the SX-93 which he then skied on until about 2005. “They were warm, comfortable, easy to get on and…I liked the idea that you could adjust the stiffness by just sliding a control on the front of the boot.” Bob now logs more than a million vertical feet of skiing a season in the Lake Tahoe region with conventional front-entry boots.

Somewhere in the late 1990s ski boot companies began to retreat from rear-entry boot models. To my knowledge only Alpina still advertises a rear-entry, medium-priced model now. The accepted explanation is that conventional front-closing ski boots are now easier to put on and more comfortable so there’s no need for rear-entry models. Hmmm? Am I the only one who doesn’t buy that explanation?

Meanwhile I’m betting if we get some snow this season, I’ll still see someone using 25-year-old Salomon SX92’s probably on some skinny Dynastars! Say what you will, at least their boots are comfortable!

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25 Responses to Rear-Entry Ski Boots: The Impossible Dream!

  1. Robert Ritchey says:

    Still on my SX92s but gave up my old Rossi skis for some new Volkl RTMs.

  2. Kris Matlack says:

    I still have Salomen rear entry boots , and still prefer old Rossignol skis.But am getting used to a pair of wooden core Volkl new skis…I just don’t like the way they turn themselves…..perhaps great for beginners.but I learned to ski age 5 at Sun Valley in 1954and both parents were on 5 Olympic teams between them. 1932 through the 1940 teams when the games were cancelled due to the war.
    The Solomon rear entry Boots are the best …remember the pain of the early Langes…medieval torture instruments !

    • Jack Lyons says:

      Hey Kris !
      Oh, WOW, do I hear you re the old Lange boots, the very first!
      OMG, they KILLED my feet. I had forgotten how miserable my life was when i skied with them; indeed, just WEARING them brought travail.
      I had a pair of rear-entry ski boots in the 1970s or ’80s, and yeeee-yow, did I love them. Into or out of the boots in minus one minute.
      Hey, thanks for the trip down memory lane, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    • Debbie Webster says:

      I am still skiing with my Salomon rear entry boots! Started skiing young in 1969 and after years of Nordica, Lange, Fischer (I think) and pain, my Salomons are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever had. If I could drive a car in them I would wear them all the time. As a nurse, comfortable, supportive foot wear is important. The clomping does wake some patients up, but with these I have the energy for 12+ hour shifts and a relaxing glide down the slopes after.

  3. Rod Sweeney says:

    You found me! I still use rear entry boots mounted to skinny long Dynastars. Surprisingly, they are still in near new condition as I take very good care of my gear. Every time I ski, mostly at Copper Mountain or Keystone, I get comments from fellow riders on the lifts about my ‘old school’ or ‘Retro’ set up! I keep saying this will be the year I embrace the new technology, but at 50 years old, I am too comfortable with my 21 year old equipment, so until something with my skis or boots wears out or breaks, I will be sticking with the tried and true. And no, they are not for sale!

  4. Dave Darden says:

    If the Salomon SX-92 came out again I would buy them in a second. Most comfortable recreational boot I ever had until the hinge pin rivet on the cable lever broke. One lever, two adjustable tightening cables for shin and foot. Pull the lever up to loosen on the ride up and let the blood get back to you feet. Push it back down at the top and you are good to go. Can’t do that with the 4 buckle plus velcro crap of a front entry. C’mon Salomon, or somebody. It was a great design. Give it another run.

  5. Paul Wick says:

    I agree with the rest, I am still on my red SX 81′s and K2 KVC Comp (200′s). My 17 year old son laughs but the last time we were out and he thought he could beat me down the hill, he got a rude awakening. I cannot believe Salomon does not bring the rear entry boots back. I have been waiting a long time for these. With new shell and liner materials, I would be the first in line. The old boots had a great design and so much adjustability. Who cares if racers do not like them, how much money is there from racers, half of them get there boots for free. The Rec market pays the bills and easy entry, comfort, adjustability, and the fact that no other companies make them in mind says they sell like hot cakes!

    • Mike Mancini says:

      I agree and btw, I also have a pair of K2KVC comps(190). I feel like a celebrity when I ski with my retro equipment. Everyone has a comment like “I have a pair of them, hanging on my wall”, “best boots I ever owned”. Great conversation starter. Equipment makers take note.

  6. Jill says:

    Yup, I’m still on the rear entry boots – any model as I can get. As they start to wear out I have to buy ‘new’ on ebay! They are the only type of boot that doesn’t give me cramp and I’ve tried countless others. The only others that come near are the Full Tilt, but can I get these or the Alpina in Europe….nope. Someone out there, listen, start producing the rear entry boots again…..please, before my skiing days are over!

  7. Scott says:

    I get frustrated with the ski industry always saying yesterday’s technology is so outdated or even dangerous that we have to buy new stuff every year. The idea that a rear entry boot is only good for a beginner or intermediate at best is ludicrous. While I agree you probably don’t want to ski competitively with them, you can certainly be aggressive and have good control. I had a pair of Nordica 927s for years that I absolutely loved. They were worn and I tossed them before I realized you can’t replace them. I continue to look for something comparable and have so far had no luck.

  8. Jeff Fleming says:

    I bought the Alpina R4.0 at the end of the season last year. Looking forward to trying them out as soon a our local ski area opens!
    Here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Alpina-Rear-Entry-Boots-2016/dp/B01FG9RRV4

  9. Mat Power says:

    I have an an old pair of Munari MS3s tried to get into newer boots and for a recreational guy like me it was so much less comfortable. I have had so many people tell me I’m going to break my leg. there is this myth about the dangers of a rear entry boot, I really believe that when the manufacturing adapted the modern boot design and everyone started doing it retailers just used that as an excuse to get customers looking for a rear entry boot off their backs. By the way I’m only 27, my boots are older then me, my uncle gave them to me when I complained of foot pain from an old hockey injury while skiing.

  10. Mike Mancini says:

    This guy must have seen me on the slopes at Okemo. Salomon SX81 rear entry boots and Dynastar Vertical skis from the 1990s ! At 68 yrs old, I’m a cruiser who can still do the black diamonds if they dont have moguls. I dont need no stinkin new skis just because they are “easier to turn”. A real man can ski on skinny skis not them whimpy wide boards. I will keep my rear entry boots until they break…most comfortable boots I ever owned and I can tighten them down very well if need be.

  11. TonyBear61 says:

    Used rear-entry off and on since they first came out in the 70s. Three of the four members in the family use them (Solomon and Rachlie).

    I did have a bad experience this year when my Tecnicas blew apart. I noticed the first one while on the Gondola(front toe fell off) , the second one fractured and front half was falling off by the time I got to the rental shop, where they are currently on display.

    I have had multiple foot surgeries so rear-entry is the most comfortable and only practical boot for me. Luckily the rental shop had a new pair of rear-entry boots from Nordica. Skied with them for two days comfortably.

  12. Ronnie rother says:

    I’ve been using rear entry Salomon boots since…well, I can’t remember the year I purchased them! SK 72 Friends tell me they are no longer safe to wear because the pads on the underneath side are chipping away. But, I’ll continue to use them until they fall apart and I can’t attach to my ski bindings. Hey, anyone know? Can I replace these pieces? My feet are comfortable and never cold!!!! I’m hoping before my skiing days are over that someone will bring back the design????.

  13. Barry C says:

    I had a pair of rear entries for years and loved them for their ease of use and comfort. The heels had worn so much from scraping on lodge concrete floors and stairs that my ski shop said they were no longer stable enough for a step-in binding to hold them safely. These heels were screwed to the sole and were replaceable, but I missed the last new parts available by two years. By the way, for true warmth and comfort, I have never experienced the equal of my very first ski boots, which were hand-made in Austria entirely of leather with separate lacing systems for the inner boot and outer shell.

  14. Greg says:

    From my memory banks …I owned a pair of Humanic (long gone as a boot brand) black plastic rear entry boots with a couple of flexible cable external closures in the early 70′s.I have NEVER seen a pair on eBay or a photo of these. Anybody else own a pair of these ski shoes? I think a bought a pair of Scott’s next season.

  15. Ray says:

    Skiing Taos today and went back to my Solomon SX82
    Boots since the rentals killed my feet yesterday . If 82
    Designates the year then I guess I got them around then
    but thought I had them By 1980

  16. Arya says:

    I’ve used my SX91 Équipe rear entry boots, K2 skies w/Salomon 747 bindings since mid 89′s and Fischer SC4 skies with Tyrolia 390 bindings (which I have hardly used). Going to Mammoth this weekend and my local REI tech says should not use them. Won’t tuneup the bindings & Mfrs can’t guarantee both bindings to release properly, since they are old. Rent the ski and boots @ Mammoth.
    Appreciate sharing your thoughts.

  17. william says:

    I’ve been skiing for 54 years. About 25 years ago a friend stopped skiing and gave me his ski equipment including his rear entry Soloman boots. While they looked really stupid in white color I tried them and have skied happily in them since. I remain an avid supporter of the technology and design today. Why the industry departed from this direction is beyond me. I see people today struggle to get their boots on and off and suffer with discomfort as they did 50 years ago.This past year the rear plastic sole on my boot disintegrated. Rather than replace with new boots, to my wife horror, I i made a new sole out of Maple in my wood shop. Works great. Making one for other side now.

  18. Rob says:

    About 15 years ago, I went on a spree and bought on-line multiple pairs of Salomon SX-9x rear entry boots to equip the entire family. I still ski with my SX-91s, and have two pairs of virtually untouched SX-91 Equipe and SX-93.

    Before I purchased these boots, I had a pair of SX-90s which finally failed (toe cracked) took a left turn and purchased a pair of front-entry Nordicas which I hated. Then, made the course correction and back to rear-entry Salomons.

  19. Robert Michelson says:

    I have skied on Solomon rear entry boots since 1985. I upgraded to my current SX92 in 2001. I bought them on e-bay. So comfortable, one buckle and my setting is always the same and correct. I am an old (76) recreational skier and do black and double black diamond runs some of the time. I have never felt that my boots lacked performance or precision. My late wife was so jealous of my first pair (in 85) that she went right out and bought some herself. She used these for the rest of her life. You can ski better if your feet are comfortable. Why did they stop producing this wonderful product?

  20. Skied the Hansens for as long as they lasted and then went to the salamon and still ski them . Have no idea why some Do not bring them back , Im geting older at 76 now so best hurry or my Salomons might give out

  21. Pinky. says:

    Nike is steeling your design for their rear entry high top shoe. Check it out!!!

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